One team's journey to HS Championship

On a typical Father’s Day weekend, Tim Noyes would be fishing with his sons for giant bass on Texas’ famed Lake Fork. But this year he’s in Tennessee and he’s got the added title of “coach” — although he’s still fishing one of the best bass lakes in the country.

Well, he’s helping his son and a friend catch fish, anyway.

Noyes, parent of a Broken Arrow High School (Oklahoma) student, is one of hundreds of parents who will serve as boater/coaches to young teams in the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship coming up Thursday through Saturday on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn.

A field of more than 200 is set for the competition, including 10 teams from Oklahoma, according to Oklahoma Bass Nation High School Director Richard Minyard. Eight qualified through the state B.A.S.S. Nation high school team trail tournaments, and two more, including Noyes’ team, fished in regional Bassmaster Open tournaments.

“During the competition, I can’t really do anything. I just watch them fish,” Noyes said of his son, Eric, and Eric’s teammate, Mikey Reiss III, who got together Wednesday evening to pack for the trip. They left last Thursday afternoon for a weekend of practice prior to the tournament week.

This year — their second in a row to qualify for nationals — they’re giving it their all.

“We’ll drive straight through to the boat ramp,” Tim Noyes said about the eight-hour drive. “We’ll sleep in the truck and start fishing first thing Friday.”

The team is part of the rapidly growing sport of high school fishing. The Broken Arrow team alone more than doubled from three coaches and six anglers in 2016 to eight coaches and 16 students this year, Noyes said.

Bass fishing is typically a club sport affiliated with the school and relies on the generosity of the parents and local sponsors to keep going and growing.

Like most in this competition, there are tales of big fish, championship efforts and dreams of what may come for Eric Noyes and Reiss.

Before we get into it, let’s set straight these often-mispronounced names. It’s Mikey Reiss, not Miley, and it’s Reiss, sounds like Reese’s as in Reese’s Pieces. As for the Noyes boys, the name sounds like “noise.”

It was March 11 on Toledo Bend when an 8 1/2-pound bucket mouth exploded out of the water — and on the opposite side of the boat — from Eric Noyes. The big bass rounded out their limit of keepers and set their path to Kentucky Lake with a qualifying finish among more than 200 boats. It was only 4 ounces short of big bass for the tournament.

“I didn’t even see it jump,” Eric Noyes said.

“Mikey and I sure did,” his father added.

The young angler somehow managed to coax the big fish back to his side of the boat without wrapping a line in the trolling motor.

“Toledo Bend was definitely the most fun I’ve had traveling with the team so far — that and Kentucky Lake last year,” Eric Noyes said.

The boys fish both the Oklahoma trail and as many of the regional high school opens as they can each year.

“I like the opens best,” Eric Noyes said. “I admit I was really nervous the first time at Kentucky Lake. It’s pretty impressive when you have 200 boats all ready to take off like that.”

Both are “coming along” as anglers, according to the senior Noyes.

Eric Noyes has a talent for putting a crankbait, swimbait or spinner into the right water. Reiss is the one with the better touch with soft plastics and drop-shots. At Toledo Bend, they scored every bass fishing shallow, dragging a 1/4-ounce weedless whacky jig with a Yamamoto Senko.

To tackle Kentucky Lake they’re going to hone in on using big swim baits, deep-diving crankbaits and big worms offshore. They’ve got a swim jig rigged to chase a possible bluegill spawn happening shallow, they might try some drop-shot techniques, and they’re going to take a shot early morning top-water with frogs.

“We’re going to try things out this weekend and in practice,” Tim Noyes said. “If things are working or they aren’t working, we’ll change it up.”

The boys are most interested in a top 10 finish — if they don’t win, that is.

“It’s a big deal. (At) the weigh-ins and everything, on the last day, a camera boat follows the finalists and they do a TV deal just like they do with the Elite anglers,” Eric Noyes said. “It’s all pretty amazing.”